Monday, April 5, 2010

911 on the risks of formula feeding-and a 411 on the benefits of breast milk

I wrote last year about my stepson John Froehlich's research success on protein changes and his grad team's tracking of milk changes over the first 28 days of breastfeeding. So it was fun to be in his kitchen tonight when he brought in a print of The Burden of Suboptimal Breastfeeding in the United States: A Pediatric Cost Analysis, the Bartick and Reinhold cost analysis of pediatric diseases effected by breastfeeding. They figure the US would save $13 Billion dollars if 90% of US families breastfed exclusively for 6 months, no other food or drink.

They alert the US that 911 lives are lost, 95% of which are infant deaths, each year from formula feeding. The causes are such terrible effects as dying intestines (Necrotizing enterocolitis) and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Other deaths and damage are caused by Asthma, Type 1 Diabetes, ear infections and atopic dermatitis (skin rashes, which are painful and irritating-not a condition that inspires -or permits- cuddling, as I can attest myself!)

John began drawing diagrams of the Human Milk Oligosaccharides with the complex and non-repeating patterns of long chain sugars (hexose, fucose). sialic acids and ...what were the squares... (John says N-acetylhexoseamine), anyway, he explained how these bond and supplement the mucosa of the baby's intestines lowering the ph so that many bacteria strains can't grow, but making the intestines favorable for our three friends, lactobaccilli, bifido infantis, and bifido longum.
They also make the intestines unwelcoming for the bad guys, bacterioides, which are over grown in formula fed baby's intestines. The bacterioides make formula fed babies vulnerable to portions of their guts dying out and perhaps killing the babies. (Any spelling problems are mine, I can't keep asking John how to spell them all, its late!)

We know not to feed our babies whiskey or rat poison.... But then, big companies with pretty ads are making money, so why would we stop that? Bottles are so "fun" after all.

Anyway, I say that with compassion to formula feeding mothers who have been lied to and duped by breast implanters, body image distortionists, sleazy jerks and all around nipplephobics in our culture. We all live in our culture and some of us go down. Let's bring up the images and support those breasts, ladies!

Ok, so, John was revving up on his chemistry endorphins (two months to his final lab days and his Chemistry PhD!)
He talked about others on the breast milk research team noting that Human Milk Oligosaccharides not only show up in the poop, but the pee of breastfed babies. This was exciting news, and maybe some other researchers knew about the Human Milk Oligosaccharides being in urine, John wasn't sure. But being in urine means that the breast milk magic goes through the intestines into the blood in whole and sometimes, partly used, molecules. They don't know where the missing pieces go entirely, but ... they know that sialic acid is good for the brain and they think maybe some goes there. (ya think? How else would those breastfed babes be an average 6 points higher on their IQs? -Unless Vic is right, they learn to count to two faster!

The formula companies are trying to find out what's in human milk for marketing and to reduce death from their products.
John made an interesting point:
A mother can feed her baby with something that will take many highly skilled technicians years trying to make, and it will be only an imitation of the ingredients of breast milk, they will spend years, then, trying to formulate it (which is different and meaningful) and they can never really do it like nature does it. After all, Breast milk changes over time to suit the baby.
Or, mothers can feed their babies right now, with something they make themselves at home, they can make it while they work, (and while they sleep for that matter) and they can make it in the car. And they can give it to their baby right now.

Disclaimer. The US public is inflamed that voices like mine proclaim the worth of womens' bodies own milk and criticism of non-breastfeeding. It's not the mothers I bark at, it's the irresponsible marketing and dispensing of what for many is poison to our children, not because the mother's Can't breastfeed, but because the maternity system and the formula/drug companies hide the real story so they can have either an easier time (some nurses and supervisors would rather not have to take expensive time helping mothers or improving birth practices that inhibit breastfeeding in the hospital) or, for companies, a profitable time in the grocery store. Arggh.
Of course, I'm in a rage! I've met several families who had damaged children from formula feeding, families that love their babies, that went with their doctor's doublespeak dismissal of their own associations recommendations to breastfeed ("Breast milk is best, but formula is well made, too, and its a personal choice." But its not an EQUAL choice! though its made to seem so.)

Of course, there are wonderful doctors who insist on and promote breastfeeding (such as Dr. C. Everett Koop and my great nieces' pediatrician in NJ, and the doctors we refer to here in MN and WI, etc.). And their are some mothers who can't breastfeed. Yet, there are women who can't conceive, too, and as painful as that may be, other women still have children. We need compassion for the women, rage for the machine. Education for the public.
There is no milk as good as mother's milk.

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Changing the Earth by supporting Birth

Mothers bring forth life; medical corporations do not. Birth can be simple, powerful and loving. Fetal positioning, natural birthing and practical help for normal birth.